For some of us, this was a continuation of a lifelong obsession. For others, this Eurovision was the first toe in the water of international song contests. Both groups were hosted wonderfully by Joe and Jess (and Rory, the softest cat in town), who had provided us with a European themed snack table including madeleines, custard creams and an international cheese selection.
Somewhat ruining the theme, we then had Thai food, but in our defence it was completely delicious.
The Quaker technical wing did admirable work bringing the sights and sounds of Kiev to the big screen, and we settled in for a weird ol’ ride with the strange hosts. To ensure that any ambivalent members were sufficiently dedicated, there was a scoresheet and Eurovision Bingo to fill out. Readers, the things we have seen. Yodelling Romanians, cultural appropriation from the Italians, a unusual Moldovan wedding and so many incredible backing dancers. Fire, rain, wind and snow. Tiny dress after tiny dress. It was truly a banner year.
Then there was a long tedious entry from Portugal which ended up winning the whole dang thing. That was a surprise.
Sated with performances both odd and magical, we had seen everything Kiev could throw at us. We had been exhausted, angry, delighted, wistful, joyous, confused and intrigued. It was only then that we were ready for Lisbon 2018.
It’s safe to say that there was enough bread. Helena and Gillian were kindly teaching us to bake bread, but they were worried the bread we’d be baking wouldn’t be ready on time, so even before we’d started we had two loaves of bread. First, learned about the bloom method, which is a way to feed the yeast overnight and provides a dough elastic that you can knead it without using your hands. However, Helena and Gillian wanted to get our hands dirty so we made a simple recipe so everyone who wanted to could practice kneading and throw the dough around a little bit. We also had a go at making gluten free buns. As you might imagine, we had too much bread to bake and many of us ended up taking dough home to bake later.
With all this wonderful bread, our shared supper was scrumptious. I was especially enamoured of the garlic butter and the garlic pesto that were perfect accompaniments to freshly baked bread.
With the eating and cleaning done we settled down to our worship sharing which was centred around a podcast recalling the story of a Jewish family finding, befriending and eventually welcoming into their household a member of the KKK who had harassed them. This led to worship sharing on the challenges posed by our testimony to tolerance and we explored some of our own relationships with that testimony.
On Saturday the 6th of May the Nottingham Young Quakers group (NYQ) went on a trip to visit the ‘Viva Vegan Festival‘ at Nottingham Conference Centre. It was delightful day out, and busy with over 3000 attendees, during which we sampled a significant proportion of the fine vegan fares on offer. From delicious hot dogs, smothered in ketchup and mustard, to piping hot plantain, exuding aromas one can only describe as divine, we tried it all. Needless to say, we very much enjoyed ourselves and being in each other’s company as we meandered through the seemingly never ending congregation of vegan businesses.
This day however was not only filled with guilt free indulgence (although I’d be lying to say that it didn’t play a significant part), it was also an educational and moving experience reminding us of our role as custodians of the planet we call home. The whole experience stimulated reflection and thoughtfulness about the impact of our actions, however small, on the world around us. From how we nourish our bodies and dress ourselves, to the way in which we treat the animals which cohabit our planet, the stalls we found ourselves amidst left us thinking about the way in which we live.
One particularly interesting experience at the event was attending a talk on the parallels between veganism and feminism. This talk compared the battles and issues faced in the feminist movement to those faced by animals in meat/dairy industry. From the loss of control of their bodies to being treated as property, a number comparisons were made. The most striking for me being the graphic depiction of the process through which cows are made to produce milk. More information on some parts of the talk is available here.
One thing however that this festival made us reflect upon is the relevance of veganism, or even vegetarianism, to Quakerism. Veganism, in essence, is based around the fundamental principles of equality, sustainability and compassion, all of which are cornerstones of Quakerism. This is an idea that stimulated discussion between us as a group and managed to add another dimension to the trip. Overall I think it is safe to say that we all very much enjoyed ourselves and took something away from this day out.